The Okinawan Songbird’s Performance Set for Sunday, Sept. 3
Jodie Chiemi Ching
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
The Japanese characters for Rimi Natsukawa’s family name mean “summer river.” How else could you describe the pure and magical flow of Natsukawa’s voice? The songbird whose recording of “Nada Sousou,” the signature tune from the heartbreaking 2006 movie of the same name, will headline this year’s Okinawan Festival, presented by the Hawaii United Okinawa Association. Natsukawa will take the bandstand stage at Kapiolani Park on Sunday, Sept. 3, at 3 p.m.
It won’t be Natsukawa’s concert debut in Hawai‘i, however. In March of 2016, she presented an unforgettable performance at the Hawai’i Convention Center in a concert titled, “Ryuukyuu No Kaze,” sharing the stage with fellow Uchinanchu artists Sadao China, the Nenes and MONGOL800.
“At that time, the feeling of Hawai‘i was so welcoming, I strongly felt that I would like to come back again,” she said in an email interview from Okinawa. “Then came an opportunity to sing at the Okinawan Festival! I am so happy to have received such good luck!”
Natsukawa’s genre is Okinawan folk, to which she blends traditional music with modern elements, creating her signature vocal style. She is best known in her native Okinawa, mainland Japan and across the Pacific, in Hawai‘i, for her rendition of popular song, “Nada Sousou.” The lyrics speak of looking through an old photo album and remembering a departed loved one. In spite of the flood of tears that flow, we are grateful for the love we once shared, knowing that we will be reunited again one day.
Local singer Alison Arakawa, perhaps best known for her renditions of the holehole bushi plantations songs sung by the early Japanese immigrants, but who also sings contemporary American and Japanese as well as Okinawan folk and classical tunes, has her own take on Natsukawa’s “Nada Sousou.” “While this song is contemporary, you can still hear the past influences of minyo (folk) and the Okinawan soul Rimi brings to it,” Arakawa said. “It bridges the past and present and, like every good song, has the ability to transcend cultures.”
Award-winning singer and kumu hula Keali‘i Reichel would likely agree. After all, he melded the two cultures — Hawaiian and Okinawan — creating his popular medley, “Nada Sousou/Ka Nohona Pili Kai.” “Nada Sousou” has also been adapted by artists worldwide, with versions recorded in various languages and with instruments such as the cello, erhu, harmonica, harp, guitar, koto, music box, piano and violin. Natsukawa also recorded other hit singles, including “Hana,” “Michishirube,” “Tori yo,” “Warabigami,” “Kanayo Kanayo” and “Sayonara Arigatou.”
Jodie Ching is a freelance writer and blogger who also works for her family’s accounting firm in Kaimukï. She has a bachelor’s degree in Japanese from the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa and is a past recipient of the Okinawa Prefectural Government Foundation scholarship.
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